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The Postal Service, Cex, & I Am The World Trade Center

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Indie electronica tries to kick start a party.
The Earl, Atlanta GA

I Am The World Trade center opened this triple bill of indie-electronica, and seemed stuck in a time warp back to a forgettable part of1988. As pundits of the recent 80's fetishism, I Am The World Trade Center gushed with ironic energy and bounced around the stage to pumping electro-disco jams that teetered on slapstick. There used to be a radio station in Tampa called "The Power Pig" that played cheesy electro pop way past its heyday of The Real Roxanne and "Let The Music Play," and I always wondered how people in 1993 were still rehashing that formula. Well, in 2003, I am asking the same fucking question and it's getting tiresome. While the duo pogo-ed around on stage and sang through numerous vocoder patches, they just didn't sell it as well as Sheena E, or even the Spice Girls. I got the impression that most of the audience who seemed thrilled with I Am The World Trade Center's redundant exposition of vacuous electro-pop wouldn't give acts like Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam a second thought, but really, what the Athens-based Due were doing was just a less-sincere version of that. I'd rather pay to see Pretty Poison perform their song from the movie Hiding Out, on roller skates than sit through a set like this again.

Cex followed up quickly and demonstrated that you don't have to stoop to the stupidity of "we're gonna rock it" to have fun. With lines like "Food is disgusting/It's what they make shit from" Cex commanded the audience (who were mostly older than he) in a way that seems to be uniquely his own. While his "rock star" antics and need to see how far he can push his audience into being his bitch sometimes come off with the machismo they are supposedly lampooning, Cex is a true showman who puts thought into his words and keeps the beats pounding steadily from his I-Mac on the floor. His set consisted of mostly-new material from his forthcoming Being Ridden and Maryland Mansions albums which meant that it oscillated between the half-goofy, embarrassingly honest rap numbers and the faux-heavy angst songs that caused more than one person in the audience to yell out "Trent Reznor." But even in Cex's darker moments, there was always a hint of playfulness, and a sense that he was stopping just sort of taking it all too seriously.

To say that the crowd went 'ape shit' when The Postal Service struck up the first chord would not be overstating things. As each song began, there was a sharp cheer, much like the kind of reaction a band like the Eagles gets when fans who have been waiting 20 years to hear "Desperado" recognize its opening notes. This is weird to me, because The Postal Service have only one album out, and it's not even a year old! Chock it up to the cult of Ben Gibbard I suppose, and the cult was in full effect with anonymous cries of 'we love you Ben' between many of the songs. Even though I have not heard The Postal Service album that was recently released on Sub Pop, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I had heard these songs and Gibbard's voice before. The show was suddenly back in the nostalgia-zone, but this time instead of playing up the camp value of music that wasn't that great the first time around, the players took a more serious approach to fusing the retro-electro beats with modern indie sensibilities. After the third song, it struck me that The Postal Service, and Gibbard in particular, were channeling equal parts New Order, Pet Shop Boys, and Matthew Sweet, and melting them all into a rather pretty batch of songs that were both new and old at the same time. When the Death Cab For Cutie front man hung over his guitar and clutched the microphone while subtly bopping to a slapping house beat, he even looked like a post-Technique era Bernard Sumner. The Postal Service never failed to please the eager fans who brought them out for an anemic cover of "Against All Odds" that inspired a sing-along unlike any I have ever seen at an indie-rock show. But anything that can get loosen the bowels of hipster indifference at a show without making everyone feel like a chump for enjoying themselves is a good thing. The Postal Service have the live chops to play bigger venues, and they could probably reach a hell of a lot more people with their infectious collection of danceable sing-a-longs, but as the group is only a side-project at the moment, I imagine that their course to become something like the next Erasure will be derailed before that happens.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2005 17:37  


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